MARKS and Spencer’s plans for a new food store in Winchester are poised to hit a major setback later this week.

Planning officers are recommending that city councillors reject plans to convert the former Hendy Ford car dealers’ base on Easton Lane, Winnall into a ‘Simply Food’ store.

A report to the planning committee on Thursday said the council has a ‘town centre first’ policy for new shops, whereas this plan is on the edge of the city.

Case officer Megan Osborn said: “The proposal could have significant adverse impact on existing, committed and planned investment, particularly in Winchester city centre.”

The officers say there are better sites available including 14 within the city centre.

The reference to planned investment in the city centre includes the Silver Hill Renaissance, a joint £130m scheme between the city council and Henderson Global Investors. The approved plans include a relocated Sainsbury’s store of a similar size to the M&S scheme.

A retail study in 2012 said there was a need for 9,000 square metres of additional space in the city centre up to 2031.

Other potential sites for food retail redevelopment are the car parks at St Peter’s, Cossack Lane, Worthy Lane and the Carfax/railway station.

The proposal would see partial demolition of the building and a revamp to create 600 square metres of sales space and a 53-space car park.

The councillors are not bound to follow the guidance and so could approve the scheme.

A M&S spokesperson said today: "We are always looking to ensure we are in the right location to best serve our customers. If the development were to go ahead a new Simply Food store at Easton Lane would complement our existing town centre store by enhancing choice and convenience and create 50 new jobs."

Local city councillor Chris Pines said he supported the plans, not least because it would provide 50-60 jobs in the hard-pressed Winnall area.

Cllr Pines also pointed out the new M&S would compete not with the city centre but with the suburban stores, Waitrose and Aldi on Stockbridge Road, Weeke.

He added: “There are already a number of retail premises along this stretch of road – Tesco, Scats, Halfords, pets at Home, Homebase – so to refuse another similar application would be perverse and likely to be overturned on appeal.”

Civic watchdogs, the City of Winchester Trust, does not object but expressed concern about chronic traffic problems on Easton Lane.

See next week's Hampshire Chronicle out on december 19 for report on the M&S decision.